Not runoff as in “election” but runoff as in “let’s run this MFer off a cliff.”

The Georgia runoff is fast approaching, and it’s not an exaggeration to say the outcome of this election will be every bit as critical as the results of the 2020 presidential race. Why? Because if we want President-Elect Biden to make any headway reversing the demolition of our democracy, such as it is, first we need to oust this Dementor’s nutsack.

If the Grinch had a three-way with Mr. Potter and Gollum that by some parthenogenic mishap managed to produce offspring, it would be Mitch McConnell. Here he is looking vivacious after his regularly scheduled life-sustaining infusion of orphan tears.

Mitch McConnell is noteworthy for being the longest-serving United States senator for Kentucky as well as the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in American history, owing to his enthusiasm for gargling corporate balls and his own stalwart refusal to just fucking die already. In his capacity as Senate Majority Leader, McConnell has devoted six terms to exemplifying my long-held theory that being a humongous, gaping asshole is the single greatest protective factor against mortality. Some of his more memorable claims to infamy include blocking former president Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, obstructing legislation that would protect American elections from foreign interference, obstructing legislation that doesn’t reflect his own indifference to human suffering, and helping blaze the trail ahead of Citizens United vs. FEC, the ruling that made it possible for unrestricted super PACs to run a train on the 99%. Two months ago, when questioned about his decision to adjourn the Senate instead of passing a coronavirus relief bill, this morally disfigured overripe banana laughed. His estimated net worth is over $34 million dollars—six annual figures of which are subsidized by you, the taxpayer—which means that unless you happen to be one of the lobbyists giving him a financial reacharound, he does not care whether you live or die. He is a pilonidal cyst on the buttocks cleft of humanity and he deserves to be yeeted into space.

The Georgia runoff is a golden opportunity to loosen McConnell’s stranglehold on the Senate. If Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both win their seats, Senate Democrats and Republicans will be tied 50-50, and any tiebreaking votes will be cast by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. This slim majority will determine whether millions of unemployed Americans receive desperately needed pandemic financial relief, or whether 2021 brings an unprecedented eviction crisis and an economic downturn that makes the Great Recession look like Christmas morning. It will determine whether Biden can fill judicial vacancies without months of delay. It will largely determine the extent to which he can deliver on his policy agenda. And with this in mind, Georgia election officials are working to stack the deck in favor of the GOP by culling early voting locations. (If you guessed that this is a maneuver engineered to disenfranchise voters of color, you guessed correctly!)

If you live outside of Georgia, Democratic Volunteer Center has compiled a list of ways to help, including links to organizations that will be phone- and text-banking on behalf of Ossoff and Warnock. Mobilize has a schedule of local and virtual events, so you can knock on doors in Georgia or call de-registered voters from anywhere in the US. If you don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer, you can also donate directly to Fair Fight, the voter advocacy organization formed by Stacey Abrams.

We have a little less than a month, and though we cannot by law give McConnell the sendoff he deserves, by working together we can make it that much harder for him to keep fucking up everyone’s lives.

Let’s go.

Your Oregon Wildfires Out-of-State Resource Guide

If you live outside of Oregon and are concerned about the spread of the Oregon wildfires and/or my proximity to them (I’m looking at you, Bollmans and Carbonaras), this post is for you.

The Oregon Wildfire Resources site is a one-stop-shop. Among other offerings, it has road closures, a list of available emergency lodging, an air quality index, and a live map you can doom-refresh to your heart’s content. The map tells you how many active fires there are, how much acreage has been consumed, and other dispiriting facts.

PDX Alerts is the best source of current, regularly updated information about conditions throughout the Portland metro area. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter. The Twitter account is where I’ve been getting most of my information simply because it’s updated so consistently.

The evacuation system is three-tiered: 1.) Be Ready, 2.) Be Set, and 3.) Leave Now. At Level 1, you should be monitoring the conditions in your county and prepping to leave if need be. That means gathering valuables and forming an exit strategy. At Level 2, you are not required to leave but should be ready to go at a moment’s notice. At Level 3, you must go without hesitation. So far in the Portland metro area, Level 3 warnings have been issued for parts of Clackamas and Washington counties. More Level 3 warnings have been given elsewhere in Oregon, primarily in rural areas where it’s easier for fire to spread.

I live in Multnomah County where we are under a state of emergency but the likelihood that we will need to evacuate remains low. I’m further insulated from danger by the fact that I live in downtown Portland, where there’s less dry foliage and more non-flammable concrete. Plus, our dickhead mayor closed all city parks and other natural areas yesterday to further limit the spread, proving that he’s good for something some of the time.

This map from @PDXFire will give you a sense of the distance between Portland and the epicenter of the Clackamas County fire. (If you’re curious about other affected counties, you can find information about them and opt into county-specific emergency alerts here.)

Updates about our risk level can be found on the Multnomah County Facebook page and on their website. Right now our biggest concerns are the toxic air quality and permeating odor of smoke.

If you’re looking for ways to help, Oregon Live has a great list of suggestions here. Most of them involve donating money either to the Red Cross or other relief organizations. I’d also recommend keeping a lookout for the inevitable GoFundMes that’ll start cropping up over the next few weeks as half a million displaced Oregonians begin rebuilding what they’ve lost. If you’re in the mood for some direct aid, consider buying a respirator or an air purifier for an Oregonian in your life. Right now, some folks whose homes aren’t threatened are being forced to relocate simply because they can’t breathe.

If you’re able to zoom out, consider that what’s happening now is likely setting the tone for every summer to come. This is what climate change looks like, and we all need to be prepared. Ask yourself how you can best use your skills to be ready and help others.

And pray for rain.

Get on Twitter.

You need to get on Twitter.

On second thought, I’m going to take that statement a step further and say you have a social responsibility to get on Twitter.

No, I’m neither joking nor hyperbolizing to make a point.

Twitter is the single greatest collective source of current information about the resistance happening in Portland right now. Activists and freelance journalists report nightly from the front lines, and they tell a vastly different story from the one found on cable news or in the Oregon Live comments section. This is how I learned about the Saturday night shooting only minutes after it occurred. It’s how I know that a medic, a Black woman, attempted to render aid to the victim and was stopped by the Portland police. It’s why I no longer believe that police violence can be reformed away.

White supremacists have strategically infiltrated our law enforcement agencies. This should tell us that we cannot trust law enforcement to factually report on race-related hate crime or activism against police brutality. Nevertheless, theirs is the version of events most commonly disseminated by broadcast news networks, which often further distort the facts with inflammatory, click-baiting headlines. This is why so many people living outside of Portland keep repeating the fallacies that downtown has been devastated by riots and that police brutality is the only force standing between law-abiding citizens and “violent anarchists.”

The institutions that are supposed to keep us informed are failing us. That means it’s our responsibility to figure out the facts for ourselves and educate one another. If we are to organize and fight back successfully, we have to be accurately informed. Twitter makes this possible by giving us many more perspectives than can be found in major news publications, and most of them come from people who are physically present for newsworthy events as they unfold. While this is not a failsafe against misinformation, it offers us an additional, valuable way to fact-check official narratives and to corroborate freelance reportage against eyewitness accounts.

So, your task:

  1. Create a Twitter account.
  2. Follow the accounts listed below. Why these? Because most of these folks are out on the streets every night or close to it, and they’ll give you a solid launching pad for further research.
  3. Assemble your own picture of what’s happening in Portland, then widen your aperture to include Kenosha and Minneapolis and other protest epicenters, then use your newfound knowledge to correct your friends and family when they spread disinformation about the Black Lives Matter movement. Because we are well past the point where “agreeing to disagree” is a viable option. The stories we tell about what’s happening in our country can bring about far uglier consequences than a Facebook spat or familial tension over Thanksgiving dinner. Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people because of a story that America was under siege and needed to be defended. People who’ve never set foot in Oregon cheered PPB for fracturing a man’s skull with ballistic weapons because they believed the story that Portland is being razed to the ground every night. Local governments funnel millions of taxpayer dollars into police budgets because of the story that police are essential to community safety. And none of it is true.

Alpha Beta @betacuck4lyfe
Cozca @KohzKah
Joshua Potash @JoshuaPotash
Lilith (they/them) @lilithxsinclair
PDX Comrade Collective @RdPirateRoberts
PDX Resistance @Pdx_resistance
PNW AntiFascist @PNWAntifascist
PNW Youth Liberation Front @PNWYLF
PopMob (Popular Mobilization) @PopMobPDX
Precious Butch Energy @Showmeurbeans
Proud Bulba @ProudBulba
Soundtrack to the End @_WhatRiot
THE WITCHES @Bitchwitch20
Triss Winters @TrissWinters

Alex Zielinski @alex_zee
Cascadianphotog Media @Cascadianphotog
Claudio @PhrenologyPhun
Cook Cajun, Punch Nazis @nogumbofornazis
Griffin – Live from Portland @GriffinMalone6
Nathan Howard @SmileItsNathan
Robert Evan @IwriteOK
Sergio Olmos @MrOlmos
Tuck Woodstock @tuckwoodstock

Other ways to find current info:

Tap the magnifying glass. In the navigation bar at the top of the screen, tap For You, Trending, and News. Search the #Portland and #PDX hashtags.

I also strongly recommend following Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) and the Portland Police (@PortlandPolice) to get a sharper picture of the inconsistencies between official narratives and the perspectives of those on the ground.

Stay together, stay tight, and keep watching this space because there will be more to come.

Reflections on police violence, PDX edition

On June 12th, an employee of the Portland Police Bureau shot one of my friends in the leg at point-blank range with a rubber bullet. She was offering her services as a medic to the protestors assembled outside the Justice Center that night, so when the police ordered the crowd to disperse she hung back, anticipating a hail of injuries that would require treatment. By her account, the police issued two verbal warnings to vacate the area before deploying flash bangs and rubber bullets.

A word about rubber bullets: they are a form of “less-lethal ammunition,” weapons designed to incapacitate rather than kill their target through blunt-force trauma.

A word about blunt-force trauma: it can absolutely kill you.

Regarding the use of rubber bullets as a crowd-control measure, the United Nations advises that they “should generally only be used in direct fire with the aim of striking the lower abdomen or legs of a violent individual and only with a view to addressing an imminent threat of injury to either a law enforcement official or a member of the public.” My friend was clearly marked as a medic and her hands were raised. One wonders what imminent threat she posed to armed police officers outfitted in riot gear.

She and enough other demonstrators were injured that they were forced to retreat away from the Justice Center. After being shot, my friend continued to aid other injured people before going to the ER herself. There the staff assessed her and referred her to a sports medicine doctor for a suspected torn fibularis longus. To an able-bodied person this injury would be a painful inconvenience; to my friend, who lives with a disabling chronic pain condition, it has been severely debilitating. As of this writing, she has graduated from using crutches to walking with a cane.

Further violence erupted after a peaceful demonstration at Revolution Hall on Juneteenth, when PPB fired non-lethal rounds at the heads of protesters assembled outside the Justice Center. At least one person sustained a serious head injury. My friend relayed, “One of the medics reported seeing a scalp wound so severe it peeled back all the skin. She saw skull.” While these assaults represent an escalating pattern of brutality enacted by PPB against the citizens of Portland, they are not a new phenomenon, nor are they a defensible response to the actions of unruly protestors. Rather, they are just a few examples of the Portland Police Bureau’s long and well-documented history of white supremacist enablement and wholesale violence.

In 2017, PPB flanked members of the alt-right group Patriot Prayer during the “March for Free Speech” through the Montavilla neighborhood, later shuttling them home aboard TriMet buses. In 2019, a public records request uncovered friendly text messages between Lt. Jeff Niiya and known white supremacist agitator Joey Gibson that included advice on how to avoid arrest. At the time Niiya was head of the team that patrolled protests, raising concerns about ongoing collusion between PPB and the alt-right. The day before white supremacist Jeremy Christian fatally stabbed two men aboard a MAX train and critically injured a third, he assaulted Demetria Hester with a Gatorade bottle. Portland police officers took a statement from Hester who identified Christian as her assailant, but they failed to arrest him. Portland Copwatch maintains a running tally of individuals shot to death by members of the Portland Police Bureau, including seventeen-year-old Quanice Hayes who was shot three times while surrendering to officer Andrew Hearst. (Note the number of names on this list that also feature designations such as “houseless,” “mentally ill,” and “developmentally disabled.”)

To Portland’s Black community, most of this is not new information. But to white Portlanders, it’s information many find difficult to reconcile with how we’re taught to view the police: as heroes who selflessly sacrifice their personal safety for the greater good – our greater good.

Depending on how closely you’ve been following the protests in downtown Portland – and, more importantly, where you’ve been getting your information – you’ve likely seen one of two characterizations: If Facebook is your primary news source, and particularly if you take what you read in any Oregon Live comments section at face value, the protests start out peaceful but are continually derailed by the actions of a few anarchists/agitators/”antifas,” forcing the police to intervene for the sake of public safety. In this version of events, extra emphasis is placed on looting, vandalism, and defacement of property, and the obvious need for PPB to protect our city.

Twitter tells a different story that by now has developed into a predictable nightly pattern: the Portland Police Bureau sends a few tweets advising their followers that they want the protests to remain peaceful and cautioning everyone to obey the law. Then, almost invariably, within a few hours they declare the assembly unlawful and the crowd is dispersed with some combination of flash bangs, tear gas, rubber bullets, and other measures ordinarily reserved for actual riots. The difference is that Twitter also gives you the protestors’ side of the story: the one in which the police instruct everyone to leave but close off every available exit path; shove, bludgeon, and pepper spray journalists with press ID; or shoot an unarmed medic with her hands raised at point-blank range.

These are not the practices of an institution concerned with community care. This is the behavior of bullies whose profession both encourages them to abuse their authority and insulates them from the consequences of those abuses via the “blue wall of silence.”

Portlanders who’ve witnessed PPB’s repeated acts of violence firsthand have demanded action, calling for the police bureau to be defunded or even dissolved. And though Mayor Ted Wheeler has called the numerous assaults on journalists “extremely concerning,” his response to public criticism of his police force has mostly consisted of feel-good platitudes about seeing and hearing his constituents and recognizing the need for change. He acknowledges his privilege. He knows he must do better. But curiously, all this self-awareness has yet to spur him to invoke his authority as police commissioner and call off his dogs.

On June 17th, the Portland City Council passed a bill that would defund the Portland Police Bureau by $15 million and eliminate 84 positions. This is a promising start, but still insufficient to curb PPB’s most egregious offenses, which only continue to escalate. Most recently, officers deployed riot control agents including tear gas to break up a peaceful march through North Portland last night and arrested three journalists who were chronicling the brutality.

So what can we do?

– Get on Twitter. Portland activists and journalists alike are reporting from onsite on a nightly basis, and their accounts of events often directly contradict the official story as told by PPB. If you haven’t done so already, start examining both sides of the issue, paying special attention to the inconsistencies in the narrative. A few accounts worth following can be found in the footnotes to this post.

Write to our elected officials. Pressure them to sponsor legislation that would reorganize our municipal budget, reallocating funds that disproportionately support policing into other services: community care, mental health support, public transportation, education, harm reduction, parks and recreation, etc.

– Show up and be counted if you are physically able to do so. That means put on a mask, leave your apartment, and find a protest to join. Last month, a number of young activists camped outside Ted Wheeler’s condo overnight in an effort to form a Portland autonomous zone. Their numbers weren’t strong enough to hold the line, and the encampment was eventually broken up by PPB. This didn’t have to happen. We can outnumber the police.

A final thought: My friend is a white woman. I mention this not to imply that white people and Black people face equal risk of being murdered by the police. We don’t, and the numbers aren’t up for debate. Rather, I share this information in the hope that it might galvanize white people who are still sitting on the fence to hop off and face facts. If you’re telling yourself that police brutality is somebody’s problem but not yours, understand that your whiteness will not protect you from a cop with an ax to grind. Your nonviolence will not protect you. The law will not protect you. This is everyone’s fight, and it can only be won through solidarity.

In which I memorialize my grandmother.

My grandmother passed away nineteen years ago yesterday. Her payoff for decades of good nutrition, moderate social drinking, regular exercise, and no smoking was death from pancreatic cancer at 62, which frankly leaves me feeling pretty vindicated about my many horrible lifestyle choices.

My grandmother, Vita Bollman.

Grandma was a first-generation Italian-American and the first woman in our family to earn a college degree. After teaching special ed for years and raising four children as a single mother, she completed grad school and started a second career as a social worker. The summer after I finished kindergarten, she retired, sold her house on Long Island, and moved to Ridgefield, Oregon, where she started a llama farm. Bingo and porch-sitting just weren’t her style.

Somewhere my mom has a VHS cassette containing the home video of her retirement party. Grandma is in tears for much of it, laughing herself to the point of hysteria while coworkers and friends lovingly roast her. At one point during the party, one of her colleagues—I believe the superintendent of the school district—delivers a line that’s indelibly burned into my brain: “I’ll never forget the day I first met, or rather, encountered, for no one simply meets Vita Bollman.”

Upon being introduced, he recalls, my grandmother asked whether he would mind if she cursed in front of him.

“In anger?” he asked.

“No,” she explained. “I just like to curse.”

Grandma was an aficionado of all things inappropriate, as evinced by the contents of her library. An incomplete list includes The Naughty Victorian Handbook: The Rediscovered Art of Erotic Hand Manipulation, The New York City Cab Driver’s Joke Book, and a dictionary-sized tome titled simply The Limerick.

My mother says I have her lacerating cackle laugh.

Before she died, I visited her every other weekend. It was our bedtime ritual for her to leave a new book under my pillow, which I was forbidden to peek at until she tucked me in. I was an avid reader, and most nights I would fall asleep with a book in my hands, which she would tiptoe in and recover after I had nodded off. In the morning she’d let me put on makeup in her vanity mirror. I still have one of her fire-engine red Coty lipsticks in its gold tube. She’d let me wear her jewelry, too, which made me feel terribly sophisticated.

Some nights we’d rent videos and she’d roll out the TV she kept on a wheeled stand in her closet. Our favorite movie was Ruthless People, a comedy about Sam Stone (Danny DeVito), an unscrupulous millionaire who plots to murder his wife Barbara (Bette Midler) for her inheritance. Instead, Barbara is abducted by a down-on-his-luck electronics salesman and his fashion designer wife who ransom her for $500K, which Sam refuses to pay. Incensed by his betrayal, Barbara teams up with her kidnappers to extort even more money out of her husband, and the movie ends happily for everyone but Sam.

I’m summarizing the plot to give you a sense of context for Grandma’s favorite scene: the reunion of Sam and Barbara, which occurred in the last two minutes of the movie. She would make me get up to rewind it six, seven, eight times, and she would explode with fresh laughter at each replay until the tears were rolling.

“History has its eyes on you.”

That awkward moment when, after campaigning for president on a platform of unapologetic racism and misogyny, you demand a "safe space" for your bigot crony because some actors respectfully asked him to acknowledge others' humanity.

That awkward moment when, after campaigning for president on a platform of unapologetic racism and misogyny, you demand a “safe space” for your bigot crony because some actors respectfully asked him to acknowledge others’ humanity.

How I wish I could travel back in time to the Richard Rogers Theatre two weeks ago and get inside Mike Pence’s head Being John Malkovich-style. I wonder whether he understood that he, an avowed homophobe, was a guest in the house of queer America that night. I wonder whether he’s aware that the American musical is an institution built by the combined efforts of a century of queer artists. I wonder how he reconciles his well-documented history of persecuting queer people with his enjoyment of their work.

I imagine he’s the “love the sinner, hate the sin” sort of homophobe: the type who compartmentalizes people’s sexual orientations away from the rest of them—as though whom one loves and fucks isn’t an integral part of one’s humanity—so he can reap the benefits of their contributions to society without feeling guilty about dedicating his professional life to curtailing their rights. (As an aside, is it too early to start the countdown until the inevitable airport bathroom scandal? Because at this point I just assume that any conservative politician so pathologically uncool about gayness is probably getting up to some extravagantly gay activities in his off hours.)

After enduring the humiliation of being the recipient of a respectful message of inclusion, Pence needed somebody to stick up for him. Enter Trump, who apparently has some kind of spidey sense for detecting any opportunity to reinforce what an utter douchebag he is by word-vomiting all over Twitter. I can imagine him sitting down at his laptop, lips drawn together in that trademark anus-like frown, typing and then erasing his rebuttal five or six times to accommodate the 140 character limit before pressing send.

For as much as they complain that oppressed groups take their own oppression too personally, and as much as they enjoy ridiculing safe spaces and trigger warnings as emblems of PC culture run amok, nobody melts down faster than a straight white dude who’s just his beliefs about his own supremacy challenged.

“There is no more status quo / But the sun comes up and the world still spins.”

One of my best friends texted me late last night. “I can’t stop crying,” she said. “I think the only thing I don’t tick in his hate column is Muslim.”

I momentarily logged into the Facebook account I deactivated a few weeks ago. Another friend, a Latino man, had posted a wry status wondering what he would look like blond. I deactivated again.

All last night and all day today I’ve been thinking about my black and brown friends, my immigrant friends, my queer friends, my disabled friends, my friends who must take medication every day to stay alive—medication most of them can only afford thanks to Obamacare. I think about every woman I know who relies on Planned Parenthood for reproductive healthcare and how fucked we’ll all be if and when it’s defunded.

Last night I felt numb and nauseous. Today I’m galvanized by rage.

Tomorrow I’ll be ready to get my hands dirty.

“Congratulations, you have invented a new kind of stupid / A damage-you-can-never-undo kind of stupid.”

Me after seeing tonight's election results.

Me after seeing tonight’s election results.

Tonight a friend in Canada offered—jokingly, I think—to marry me. This was shortly before I received word that the Canadian immigration website had crashed beneath a deluge of panic-stricken Americans, but after I’d successfully right-clicked and saved the PDF of the passport application. Like me, she’d tuned into the election coverage with high hopes that by the end of the night we’d see the ascendance of America’s first woman president. Like me, she was devastated by the finale, in which an eminently qualified stalwart of progressive values was forced to concede to the world’s ugliest trust fund baby/rapist.

I’m never one to underestimate the stupidity of big swathes of people and the destructive power they wield, and even I was dumbfounded by what I saw tonight. Every time Google’s election tracker refreshed itself and the red ticker tracking Trump’s progress across the map got a little longer, my chest tightened. Even after it became clear that Hillary wasn’t going to trounce him as effortlessly as I’d anticipated, I felt optimistic that he’d pull some pansy-assed move at the last minute and weasel out of the race. After all, this was the same dumbfuck who tried challenging the presidential debate schedule on the grounds that it conflicted with a football game. Some conspiracy-minded commenters even conjectured that he was working to sabotage his own campaign, a theory I embraced with zeal. There was some strange comfort in imagining that the whole horrible Trump sideshow—from the ghoulish Mystic Tan to the barely intelligible, inflammatory rhetoric that sounded like a special racist edition of Mad Libs—was a bid for publicity that spiraled horrifically out of his control. It meant there was still a possibility that he’d pack it in, however clumsily, and then the reins would be handed over to the candidate with actual qualifications.

But this is 2016: The Year of the Tire Fire. Of course we wouldn’t get that lucky. Of course a year that kicked off with a harbinger like the surprise death of David Bowie would be bookended by a political calamity the likes of which will make Brexit look like Christmas morning. But the adherence to dramatic structure doesn’t diminish my horror a bit. It doesn’t take the sting out of knowing that American citizens were so eager for a permission slip to freely hate women and people of color that they chose to elect a former reality TV star with zero foreign policy experience to the highest office in the land, nor assuage my fear of what he’s now in a position to do to the Supreme Court. Between the Republican-controlled House and Senate, Trump’s presidency, and whichever justices he ends up nominating, we’re liable to see the unraveling of decades of advancement in equality, and needless to say the impact will be felt most acutely by black and brown people, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, disabled people, and the working class.

None of this is an accident. Trump didn’t spring fully formed out of thin air. He is a golem built by America’s most entitled from fistful after fistful of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. He’s the dying gasp of the dominant culture of straight white men who spent the better part of the last century tantruming on the floor because they don’t understand why they should have to share the world. They embraced him with enthusiasm as a mouthpiece for their continued supremacy, and now the most vulnerable among us are going to feel the weight of his foot on our necks for decades to come.

Tempting though it is to flee, nothing would bring me more satisfaction than to help destroy the culture that created him. I don’t want to run away from it. I want to join forces with everyone else who was told in not so many words tonight to bite the pillow and burn it to the fucking ground.

Alan Rickman

I don’t remember when or why Alan Rickman first came onto my radar. It wasn’t because of Harry Potter—a bandwagon I only joined long after it became a global phenomenon—and I’d probably have to trawl through my old LiveJournal archives to figure it out. Doesn’t matter. He’s such a central figure in my pantheon of favorite actors, and his work is so woven into the last decade of my life that it’s part of the fabric.

Whatever sparked my initial mania for him propelled me to hunt down the rest of his work like a greedy seek-and-binge-watch missile: even the obscurer, earlier stuff like The Barchester Chronicles, the weird period dramas like Mesmer and Rasputin, and the 1978 BBC Romeo and Juliet in which he sported an epic bowl cut and was slain by Romeo after a hilarious fight scene that looked more like a lyrical dance-battle. I endured two hours of Kevin Costner mulleting his way through Robin Hood, the testosterone-saturated bulletfest known as Die Hard, and Tim Burton’s self-indulgent hatchet job on Sweeney Todd, all for him. Come to think of it, I’d argue that we misremember a lot of so-so movies as being awesome simply because he was in them. (Case in point: The best part of Love Actually is his mounting panic as Rowan Atkinson painstakingly gift-wraps a necklace for his mistress.) He brought wit and depth and honesty and lacerating humor and sex appeal to everything he did.

Then there were the movies I really loved, the ones I obsessively watched and re-watched: Snow Cake, An Awfully Big Adventure, Dogma, Sense and Sensibility, Closet Land, and Galaxy Quest, in which he made me howl with laughter as a has-been theatre titan promoting a big box store with the flat affect of the utterly demoralized. His focus and intensity onscreen were captivating, and I studied him as though by watching him intently enough I could transfuse some of his magic into me. I loved the way he talked about acting, too. He seemed to take itbut not himselfabsolutely seriously. Not in an obnoxious way, but in the way people do when they recognize that it’s a discipline, and not just a fanciful game as it’s sometimes characterized. (In a way I don’t often hear Hollywood A-listers talk about it, in other words.) I loved the way he talked about most things, actually, though the content was often lost on me because I was so attuned to the sound of his voice. There was a period where I went to sleep every night listening to him narrate an audiobook of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. I still have no idea what the fuck it’s about because his voice was such an effective tranquilizer that I never made it past the first chapter. If there’s any silver lining in this total write-off of a garbage week, it’s the airtight excuse I now have to revisit it, and everything else.

I’m sad for his family and friends and fans. But mostly, selfishly, I’m sad that there will be no new work to look forward to. I don’t know how many hours I logged combing file-sharing websites in search of a fabled bootleg of his 1987 Les Liaisons Dangereuses, but I never found it. Like a Bigfoot hunter, I hold out hope that it’s out there somewhere, still waiting to be discovered.